Healthy Drinking? Does it exist?

Cabernet Sauvignon Riesling Shiraz Wine

Drinking healthy? The phrase sounds like an oxymoron, however every time I look at the news there seems to be some new link with health and alcohol, a glass of wine here or a gin there and suddenly we all live to a ripe old age. It’s all rather hard to believe, but I slept through most of my high school biology classes.

I personally think that the key here, as with anything in life, is moderation. But if you still want to be able to have a couple with friends, like most of us would like, then there are a few healthier choices. From choosing preservative free to using drops that change those preservatives, low calorie and lower alcohol.

I’m not a fan of all this “low carb” advertising and gimmickry, generally low carb equates to low taste. And the low carb tag line can often be used with a bit of trickery. Yes, it might be have lower carbs than others of its kind, however it’s not carbs per-say that make you put on weight, it’s the kilojoules/calories. That stat can be hard to find on a bottle of wine while most beers will have those stats listed on the carton. There is one indicator that will let you know what range of calories will be in your glass, and that’s the alcohol by volume percentage or ABV. Alcohol has seven calories per gram (while carbs have four), so a lower alcohol wine will have fewer calories than a higher alcohol wine, so a wine that has an ABV of 9-12% will have a 110 to 150 calories per 180mls, the same serving of a high alcohol red, 13-16%, will be 165-195 calories. Try looking for lower alcohol dry whites, such as riesling or pinot grigio/gris, alternatively Australian sparkling or French champagne labelled as Brut ie dry finish do not have added sugar and are a great choice.

Preservatives are another choice to think about. In some cases the sulphur used as a preservative can react with some.  If you find you get a red hive type rash, sneezing, runny eyes, respiratory issues, swelling or gastro issues, soon after having a glass, it could be a reaction to the sulphites. You can either search around for preservative free wines, which can be hard to find on your local shelves, or try additives which will convert the sulphite to sulphate which passes harmlessly though the body (ok I was awake for some of biology). The sulphites are also a major contributing factor to hangover type symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, nausea etc, its also why you find you get less hangover type symptoms when drinking aged wines where there is less preservative.

Purewine is an Australian invention by WA scientist and winemaker James Pennington. The liquid drops will convert that sulphite to sulphate, and is readily available from most major bottleshops. One drop into the glass, or 5 drops into the bottle is enough to start the reaction. We’ve tried these with great results, especially limiting that red rash, there’s no change to the taste or smell, as long as you’ve put in the right amount of drops. Adding too much gave the wine a touch of oxidisation, the wines showing a little less fresh and brown-ish in colour with reds. Put simply they work, and they work well.

A couple of wines to look for:

Yangarra Estate Vineyard PF Shiraz– the PF here stands for preservative free, the grapes are grown without herbicides, fungicides or any kind of synthetic chemicals. There is no sulphur added as a preservative either so it may not be a long term aging wine, but trust me, it won’t last that long in your wine rack anyway. Great spicy, chocolate and earthy notes with the acid working so well with the tannin structure. I’ve tried this a few times over the last few months and have found that spice is increasing as our weather warms, it may not be the best match for a hot day, but it’s a wine that is more than a match for a huge peppered steak right now! RRP $25

Angoves Long Row Shiraz – possibly taking out the “all time bargain” award. 90+points awarded to it left right and centre, with the most glowing coming from James Halliday who gave it a 92points. Fully vegan friendly, no herbicides and organic compost for those that are concerned with that sort of thing. Its medium bodied, earthy and savoury, with dark fruit and a little oak sweetness. And you get change from a tenner!

Bellarmine Pemberton Riesling Select – this WA drop is lower in alcohol, hence lower in calories, but it doesn’t lack any flavour, and ages superbly, I recently opened an older vintage that rewarded the decade of patience. The 2017 vintage comes in at a meagre 7.5% ABV, and has a racy acidity with fresh sorbet. Can be hard to find.

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